The Renault UK Clio Cup has been a mainstay of the British Motorsport scene for over 20 years, it’s 2019 championship has been one of the most exciting in its illustrious history. Max Coates has played a central role in its final season after a yearlong title battle and rivalry with Jack Young.
Entering the final round at Brands Hatch in Kent, Coates sat 15 points behind Young in the standings. The previous round at Silverstone provided the latest twist in the Coates-Young championship battle, with Coates ending the second race in the gravel trap after contact from his ex-team mate. Few thought the drama would, or could, escalate further at Brands Hatch.
But that it did and it all started in Qualifying. The rain-hit session started damp with all cars starting on wet Michelin tyres. The track dried quickly and Coates pitted to make his car slick shod whilst his rival continued on wet tyres. After two laps Coates was on track to set the fastest lap of the session by some margin, but as he entered the final corner of the historic GP layout at Brands Hatch, he was greeted by a red flag halting the session after another driver had finished up in the gravel. With further rain afterwards Max's times were only good enough for 4th and 10th on the grid for the weekends two races. Meanwhile Young had scored 7th and 3rd. It meant Coates would likely out-score in race one and Young would in the championship-deciding race two.
As Coates pulled up to 4th position on the grid in race one he stalled, his clutch not clearing sufficiently to stop the car. Thankfully he got it restarted and was able to continue without further issues, however he crept away slowly. Under pressure from his championship rival Coates turned defence into attack and was the fastest car on the circuit, within a lap moving into 2nd place. He then began his advances on the early race leader and on lap 5 was on his rear bumper. A safety car intervention was needed to clear a car stricken in the gravel trap which halted his progress. He then lost a spot at the restart and despite his early race pace had to settle for 3rd place. The action didn’t end there, Young was given a drive-through penalty for overlapping at the safety car restart, a penalty he did not serve. He was handed a 30-second penalty after the race which meant Coates lead the championship once more, by just a single point, going into the final race of the season.
To the finale, Coates starting 10th was really on the back foot despite his points advantage. A strong opening lap meant he climbed 5 places only for an early race safety car to halt his progress. The intervention was lengthy, but at the restart Coates looked almost certain to gain another position, only for another safety car to be called. Coates backed out of the move but other drivers didn’t hear the message on the radio and he slipped back to 6th place. Again, the safety car period was lengthy leaving just 4 laps for Coates to overhaul Young’s advantage. Coates moved heroically through to 2nd place in the final laps and had one lap to close and pass his rival to take the championship. By that point the gap was nearly 3 seconds which was just too big for Coates to overcome. 2nd in the race and 2nd in the championship, by just 5 points.
Afterwards, an emotional Coates said, “I put everything I had into that last race but it just wasn’t to be. The safety car laps hampered my chances to move forward but when I had the opportunity to overtake I did, I couldn’t be happier with my drive today but I’m so disappointed not to have taken the title. It’s easy with hindsight to look back at where I could have found another 6 points this year, we’ve had plenty of set-backs and really any one of them could have made the difference.
UK Clio Cup Media Officer Carl McKellar said “For the 300,000 fans who have attended the events and the millions more watching ITV4’s live coverage of the action, the rivalry between Max Coates and Jack Young has been the most exciting of the season out of all the BTCC’s supporting categories.
The Brands Hatch races can be watched back via the ITV Hub or BTCC ITV Motorsport website; https://www.itv.com/btcc/races/btcc-2019-brands-hatch-gp-race-action. His focus is now on putting together a BTCC Championship campaign for 2020 and he is already in discussion with teams about his ambitions.